PHIL Parkinson thanked his players for digging deep at Sheffield United and supplying a perfect response to his own critics.

Gary Madine scored the only goal of the game at Bramall Lane to ensure Wanderers kissed goodbye to 2017 on a victorious note.

Parkinson had come in for flak after recent defeats against Burton Albion and Middlesbrough, prompting him to appeal to fans to keep some perspective in the fight for survival, given the club’s comparative lack of spending power.

He switched back to a three-man defence to dull the Blades, bringing Reece Burke, Josh Cullen, Fil Morais and Adam Le Fondre out of the cold for a result which leaves Bolton in the relegation zone only on goal difference.

“You’ll always get criticised when you lose a game of football, even if it’s Middlesbrough and they’ve spent £40-50million on players,” he told The Bolton News. “But as I said leading up to the game, nobody understands what I have had to cope with this season and last season and the kind of problems I have faced here. Nobody quite understands it because I’m not the kind of manager who blurts out all the details to protect myself.

“But one thing I am very, very proud of is the fact the lads keep responding and keep producing performances.

“We are battling our hearts out. We will go again Monday and whatever happens, the one thing we will not lack is spirit and determination. I am very proud of that.”

Victory over Hull City this afternoon at the Macron would lift the Whites out of the bottom three, and Parkinson – and ex-Tigers boss – is keen to show how far his own side has come since being humbled 4-0 at the KCOM Stadium in August.

“I think we need to show Hull City we have moved forward as a team,” he said.

“I felt we did that against Middlesbrough in all honesty, we were a long way off their standard when we played them earlier in the season but a lot better the other day. I do believe we are a team who will get better and I think we will show that again on Monday.”